Posts Tagged ‘rhubarb’

Eating Season Begins

May 25, 2010

Local farmers markets are opening this week! I’m going to as many as I can.  Massachusetts listings are at www.massfarmersmarkets.org.

On Sunday, I went to opening day of the Harvard Square (Cambridge) market.  It’s a small market, and I know that opening week tends to be sparse, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to see 4 vendors and barely a vegetable.  Variety has become a hallmark of local markets, so the four vendors were each selling something different:  flowers, meat, bakery items, and vegetables.  The vegetable farm mostly had flats of herbs to take home and plant.  They had a half dozen varieties of scallions or green onions. I can barely eat those, so I didn’t buy any. What they did have, as I expected and hoped, was rhubarb, so I bought a pound and a half. It will become sauce, probably for ice cream. I think the sauce will freeze well. It’s easy to make: slice the rhubarb, put it into a small saucepan, macerate it in sugar until it releases enough juices to not burn, then turn on the heat and stew it until the texture is good. How much sugar is a matter of personal taste.

I had hoped to bring home greens to cook, but there weren’t any.  So Sunday evening used the last frozen greens from our freezer.  The mizuna made a nice stir-fry with tofu, seasoned with Japanese flavors of ginger, wasabi, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  The mizuna was chewier than fresh would be, and reminded me of the texture of seaweed, but since I think of seaweed as belonging in Japanese cooking, it was just fine.

Apparently, I used the mizuna just in time because I did find greens at opening day of the Central Square (Cambridge) market on Monday.  My CSA farmer was there!  He’s having a strong enough early harvest that he’s going to start drop-offs next week, which is earlier than usual.  He had fresh mizuna, but I didn’t buy any.  Instead I bought romaine and red leaf lettuces, red chard, bok choy, and kale.  The chard is so young that its stems look like beet stems rather than the celery size (and crunchiness) that I’m used to from later in the summer.

The lettuces have already become salad for a few meals, with chick peas and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  The chard will become saute with the leftover chickpeas, with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and maybe a bit of oregano.  It will go over couscous, or rice, or maybe pasta.  The bok choy will go into stir-fry with tofu and some of the turnips still surviving since last fall in our refrigerator.  Kale could turn into almost anything that uses greens.  Mostly, I bought it because it keeps better than any other greens and I don’t know when I’ll go into labor and be away from my vegetables for a couple of days.

Farmers markets are open

June 7, 2009

Since I last posted, both of most-nearby farmers markets have opened.  There’s a market I can get to easily by bicycle almost every day of the week, but only two are easy to walk to.  Our CSA will start drop-offs this week.  This is the beginning of the season when I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t eat locally.

This spring was an unusually good growing season.  Unlike last year when the farmers market had only radishes and rhubarb (and a bit of arugula) on opening day, this year there were all kinds of greens available, and turnips in addition to radishes. My husband brought home spinach (to enjoy as a raw salad), chard (which was my favorite green for a few years – I don’t think I have a favorite currently), collards, and rhubarb.  He could easily have bought enough things for us to eat a different vegetable every day all week, but we still have a lot of freezer stores to eat down.

We ate the spinach with beet wedges thawed from the freezer, under balsamic vinaigrette.  Blue cheese would have been nice but we didn’t have any.  The collards we enjoyed, as usual, cooked with black beans in olive oil, garlic, basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt, served over brown rice.  The chard joined white beans in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sage, salt and pepper, served over pasta.  The rhubarb is probably going to become ice cream sauce and go into our freezer until we make ice cream to put it over.  Sauces freeze very well.

Our CSA farmer is concerned about losing some crops that matured too quickly for his drop-off schedule.  As I said, it was a weirdly good spring for growing greens and their roots.  I hope he was able to sell them at farmers markets instead.  When we saw him on Saturday, we asked the same question we ask all summer, “Is there anything here that we won’t get in our share this week?”  His answer was broccoli rabe so we bought some of that and then stopped at an Italian grocery on our way home to buy parmesan to use with it over pasta.

In anticipation of a glut of vegetables, I did a lot of cooking this weekend to get us eating down last year’s stores.  I roasted two full cookie sheets of root vegetables.  One of them was all carrots, an interesting mix of colors (yellow, orange, and purple) and sizes.  While they were still warm, I tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley (the good part of what was left over from Passover – a lot of leftover parsley went into the compost).  We also had parsley in our freezer, and that went into a salad of bulghur and cooked lentils in a tabbouleh dressing.  The other cookie sheet was a rainbow mix of beets (one red, one yellow, and one red-and-white striped Chioggia), turnips, celeriac, parsnips, and more carrots.  Roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper, they’ll be an easy side dish for some meal this week.

We didn’t make as many batches of applesauce last fall as I’d expected, and then we got more apples (local storage apples) through our winter CSA, so there are still lots of apples in our fridge.  Three of them went into an apples and spices sodabread that used a mix of applesauce and water as its binding liquid.  I don’t know yet how it came out.  A few others had to go directly into compost.  If the bread works, I still have enough apples to make many more loaves.

Week 31: December 22 – 28

December 29, 2008

Because of the holiday, we got our share this week on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.  Because we were travelling and sharing meals with extended family, we divided the share a little differently.  Usually we try to divide everything right down the middle, so everyone gets a little of everything.  This week, we wanted more of whatever we got. 

There were the usual assortment of potatoes (white and red), carrots, garlic, onions, apples, and oranges, and we divided those evenly (except for the onions which they always get because I can’t eat them).  There was one celeriac, and it was the other couple’s turn for that.  We took collards because we still had the ones from last week, and put together we could make enough beans and greens for a crowd.  The other couple took lettuce and mustard greens.  That left us with kale.  We took the three zucchini because they would survive travel, and the other couple took the two bell peppers because they would be good with their lettuce in salad.  We took the two large tomatoes to cook with, and they got the box of grape tomatoes, again with salad in mind.  There might have been more.  I don’t remember. 

For anyone keeping score (like me) the items from Massachusetts were apples, onions, carrots, maybe red potatoes, lettuce, and celeriac.  Other things came from North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.

One of the potatoes was starting to turn green, and another seemed to have a rotten spot.  That inspired dinner.  I cut the equivalent of about 6 large potatoes to bite sized pieces, and boiled them until a fork went in easily, as for potato salad.  Then the potatoes (well drained, of course) went into a large skillet with olive oil and two cloves of garlic, pressed (although diced would have worked).  I spiced them with approximately 1 tablespoon of curry powder; 1/2 tablespoon of turmeric; 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and ginger; a few dashes of cayenne; and about 1 tablespoon of salt.  I knew the spices were mixed in thoroughly when all of the potatoes had a yellowish tinge.  Turmeric does that.  While the potatoes boiled, I had diced the two tomatoes and chopped the kale.  They went into the skillet, too, along with a can of chickpeas, and I stirred everything together as best I could.  I cooked the whole mess until the kale wilted and the tomatoes softened.  That was the meal:  spicy potatoes, kale, tomatoes, and chickpeas.  It was easy and delicious–definitely worth repeating!

Some of the food came with us when we travelled for Christmas.  I made a huge pot of split pea soup with two pounds of split peas, six  carrots, and three turnips that masqueraded as potatoes once they were cooked in the soup.  It was seasoned with three cloves of garlic, the leaves off many sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  We used the rest of the bulb of garlic in a humongous batch of collards and black beans, using the Green Cafe recipe I gave last week.  Relatives seem to like my cooking.  I know they like the fact that I’m doing so much cooking.  They seem to like the food itself, too.

On our way into Lake Placid, we stopped at the Rivermede Farm Market in Keene Valley, NY.    We were lucky enough to catch farmer Rob Hastings behind the counter.  He just won a nationwide award for his work on sustainable farming!  He explained to us that his store has been evolving as interest in eating local has grown, a movement that he was on the vanguard of.  He can now stock only items grown or produced locally, and he knows all of the growers and producers of his merchandise.  We snagged a 5-pound bag of blue potatoes that he grew himself, a jar of rhubarb jam from Mooers, NY (about 75 miles away), and about 5 pounds of Fortune apples grown in Peru, NY (about 40 miles away). 

Fortune apples are a new variety, crossed from Northern Spy and Empire.  As with most new apples in this area, they were developed at the Cornell University apple research station at Geneva, NY, a little under 250 miles away from Lake Placid. 

I have to make a confession.  I bought grocery store vegetables today for what I think is the first time since May.  My husband is politely pointing out that since my mother-in-law paid that I didn’t buy them, she did.  (I love my mother-in-law dearly, just for the record, and I’m not saying that for her benefit, because I don’t think she reads my blog.  I’m saying it because mothers-in-law get a bad rap they don’t deserve.)  I picked out organic romaine lettuce from who-knows-where and a bag of organic white potatoes from Maine.  I thought that maple mashed squash would be good with dinner.  There were piles of squash at the supermarket.  No organic option.  My husband and I started looking for local.  The butternut squash had stickers from about three different growers, all of them in Mexico.   There were carnival squash, but only one had a sticker, and it wasn’t local.  Some of the acorn squash were from Washington, but some of them were from Coxsackie, NY, about 165 miles away.  Of course, we bought those. 

The centerpiece of dinner tonight was tourtiere, a Quebecois meat pie.  We faked a vegetarian version using a family recipe.  It involves something approximating ground meat (perhaps actual ground meat, if you’re of that persuasion), mashed potatoes and bread cubes, and for seasoning a mix of savory (poultry seasoning) and sweet (cinnamon, cloves, allspice).  That part wasn’t local.  But all of the sides were:  roasted blue potatoes; acorn squash baked, scooped, and mashed with butter and local maple syrup; and homemade applesauce from those Fortune apples.  We got to tell everyone at the table where each of those side dishes had come from.  I like to get people thinking a little more about where their food comes from, and appreciating things that come from nearby.

Week 1: May 25-31

June 22, 2008

Our first chance at local veggies came just before Memorial Day when one of the local farmers markets opened.  When I went grocery shopping a few days before, I carefully didn’t buy any veggies.  In fact, for a couple of weeks prior, we’d been eating down our supply of veggies.  On a hot day in May, we ate a very wintry meal of scalloped parsnips (like scalloped potatoes) and cranberry-apple sauce. 

The parsnips were from our CSA.  When the drop-off season ended, the farmer invited all the shareholders out to his farm to pick anything remaining.  We dug a lot of carrots and parsnips.  At first, we stored them in a cabinet in the coldest corner of our kitchen.  We lost a few to rot, but we had so many we didn’t care.  Eventually, there were few enough left (and they were sad enough looking) that we scrubbed the remaining ones and moved them to the refrigerator.  The last of our November-dug parsnips went into a casserole of scalloped parsnips in May – a veggie storage success!  The apples in the sauce came from a farmers market.  Toward the end of the season, one of the farmers started selling 10 lb bags of past-prime apples for $7 and we bought a bag a week for a month.  The cranberries came from my local supermarket, but are Massachusetts grown, so still local food.  I’ve never seen cranberries at a farmers market. 

On the market’s opening day, there were lots of half-grown plants for sale, a vegetable garden started in someone else’s greenhouse.  There was meat, cheese, maple sugar products, bread from local bakeries, but almost no vegetables.  One farmer had brought some arugula, but it sold out hours before I got to the market.  So I bought what there was:  radishes and rhubarb.  The radishes went, with some supermarket organic celery and carrots, into tabbouleh.  Local parsley, frozen in ice cube trays last fall, went in, too.  The rhubarb, macerated in sugar and then stewed, became a pretty pink compote.  When I made the same compote last year my stalks weren’t as red and the compote came out gross-out-goo green.